How to Help During Season of Giving and Beyond

Hand lifting lid off gift box

Directory of Resources and Community Service Organizations

Compiled by Northwoods News Staff

Christmastime is a focus of giving for many. Not only for one’s family and friends, but for others. The Northwoods is a network of rural communities, where small town living is a way of life, and local clubs, organizations and volunteers provide the glue that helps hold the bonds of community.

Although “Giving Tuesday” has passed, the season abounds in mitten trees, drives for clothing, food and toys, annual fundraisers, community meals and other ways to spread Christmas cheer to the less fortunate. It is also the prelude to the New Year and New Year resolutions, which can include helping others. Small donations of time and money can really add up to significant change.

There are many ways to give, far too many to do justice in a single listing. Our list focuses on local organizations, starting with umbrella and regional organizations that support a large area and other charities, and ending with community service groups.

Salvation Army / United Way / Community Foundations / Keeping It Local / Online Donations / Online Volunteer Matching
Helping People in Need / Food and Essentials Pantries / Shelters / Veterans / Community Service Organizations


The Salvation Army of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan:
The Salvation Army is one of the oldest and most respected private charities in the world to help the needy with food and shelter assistance, programs for addiction, abuse, unemployment and disaster relief.

Bell ringers and donations are needed for the annual Salvation Army Kettle Campaign, which collects funds to help the needy. Sign up online for a shift before Christmas to ring at the following locations: Antigo, Eagle River, Merrill, Minocqua, Rhinelander and Tomahawk. The Crandon location is not online, and the sign-up sheet is at Laona State Bank inside Schaefer’s IGA.

Donations can always be made via the Virtual Red Kettle. Online donations are targeted to the area you live in unless otherwise specified. This option also checks if your employer has a donation matching program.

The Salvation Army is partnering with Walmart and other sponsors for its Angel Tree Program. There is not a master list of participating retailers, but keep your eye out for them at the front of stores to buy a gift for a child or elder in need, or search online for the closest Salvation Army Center (in Wausau and Kingsford, Michigan) and shop online.

United Way:
The United Way is one of the world’s largest charities and serves 95% of communities in the United States. It acts as a fundraiser for numerous qualified health and human service agencies.

Community Foundations:
A few Northwoods cities have community foundations which act as investment funds for that community. The Wisconsin Philanthropy Network publishes an annual directory of private foundations.



There are many local organizations worthy of your help. Churches, thrift shops, scouting groups, sports clubs, animal rescues, social service organizations and fine arts and performing centers all need volunteers and the winter can be an ideal time to volunteer, both indoors and outdoors. Of course, donations at any time are always welcome.

Chambers of commerce can be good places to learn about local organizations, and the town website may provide this information for smaller communities. For some communities, the volunteer fire department is where the action is, and for others it is the library, school, town hall or a local gathering spot.

Information for food and personal essentials pantries, emergency shelters, veterans services and community service organizations is located at the end of this article.

stack of gifts

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” Aesop

Find Organizations and Donate Online
For a simple overview of nonprofits in our area, maintains a large list that can be searched by location; just type in the state and then the city, or look through its alphabetical lists of hundreds of towns in Wisconsin and Michigan. The results are a simple list, and the linked profile will verify if donations are tax deductible.

For a deeper dive, is a more comprehensive site where you can search by location and by issue, with organization descriptions, address, email, website, and donation buttons.

These listings may include organizations that are inactive, so you will need to do your own research to see if they are worthy of your time or money.

Find Volunteer Opportunities Online
In these inflationary times, money can be tight, so giving time rather than money is an option. Volunteer Wisconsin, a joint effort of Serve Wisconsin and the United Way, has a volunteer portal by location, event, agency, type of work and includes AmeriCorps listings. Volunteer Michigan is similar, although its reach in the Upper Peninsula appears limited.

Serve Wisconsin also has a list of online volunteer matching sites with listings for work that can be done remotely. With a bit of creativity, most organizations have work to do on your own time if you ask. is a portal for those who wish to volunteer on government lands in various capacities, including archeology, wildlife research, site maintenance, and for manning visitor centers and campgrounds. The Wisconsin and Michigan Departments of Natural Resources have similar portals for work on state lands.


The Salvation Army and United Way are just two organizations of many that provide services or fund services for those in crisis. Referral services such as 211 Wisconsin, 211 Michigan and are great resources to find these services by location and for specific needs.

Food Banks and Personal Essentials Pantries:
These agencies depend on community support and in-kind donations. Many food drives are going on now, but the need for both volunteers and donations is year-round. Although food banks and pantries get donations from many sources, a strong back to unload stock, or a hand to sort through perishables or keep records, is always needed.

Nicolet College published a list of local food pantries and free community dinners in Forest, Iron, Langlade, Lincoln, Oneida and Vilas Counties. St. Vincent de Paul Diocesan Council in Marquette, Michigan provides a list of food pantries in the Upper Peninsula.

Other resources can be found through an online search at Searching 211 Wisconsin or 211 Michigan is another option to find both food pantries and personal essentials pantries (PEP).

Food Pantries:

Other: Feed Our Rural Kids (FORK) is a local charity based in Eagle River that helps feed children in Oneida and Vilas Counties. It has a family food helpline at 888-479-FORK and a list of food pantries, community meals and child nutrition programs.

Personal Essentials Pantries:

Other: The Rock Mission Center in Eagle River is a unique facility that hosts 10 church ministries and 20 businesses and community organizations including Northwoods Share Community Dinners and Personal Needs Ministry.

Homeless Shelters and Domestic/Sexual Abuse Shelters:
Emergency shelters, halfway houses, temporary housing and services can be found on, although the results may not be fully inclusive. Domestic Abuse Shelters can be found on




  • WISCAP is a network of private social service agencies in Wisconsin offering emergency housing placement, homeowner and rental assistance, energy assistance and other services. Member organization Newcap covers 10 counties, including Forest, Florence, Langlade, Lincoln, Oneida and Vilas Counties in the Northwoods, and operates a Crisis Hotline at 800-242-7334.
  • Michigan Community Action is a similar network of community action programs in Michigan.
  • The Salvation Army offers counseling services, emergency financial assistance and emergency housing placement throughout the region. A Nationwide Hotline is available at 844-458-HOPE (4673).
snow on trees

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” Charles Dickens



Most communities have at least one, but most likely several,  nonprofit veterans and community service organizations who meet on a regular basis to socialize, raise funds and support community causes. They operate on a local level, neighbor to neighbor.

Veterans Organizations:
A large portion of the U.S. population has ties to the military. According to the Pew Research Center, about 7 % of adults are veterans and more than 50 % of the total population has an immediate family member who has served in the military.

Veteran Service Officers share veteran services information in each county and for each Tribe in Wisconsin and for various locations in Michigan. Veteran organizations often not only serve veterans, but the community as well. It is also common in this region for these centers to contain bars, banquet facilities and recreational space.

The American Legion is the largest veteran organization in the U.S. with close to 40 posts in the Northwoods. Their motto is “Veterans Strengthening America”, and they support a variety of veteran, youth and community causes.

Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) have about 20 posts in the Northwoods and they typically sponsor fundraising to support veteran services and local community activities.

Community Service Organizations:
These organizations provide education and social meetings for their members and raise funds to support community activities and organizations. Some date from the 1800s and remain a primary source for fundraising, local grants and sponsoring important community events. Many clubhouses and lodges act as important community meeting halls and gathering spaces for the whole community.

Lions Clubs International is the most widespread and largest grassroots service organization in the world, operating in more than 200 countries with 1.4 million members. Its motto is “We Serve”. Basic contact information may be found at the Club Locator for nearly 40 clubs in the Northwoods.

Masons are the oldest fraternal organization in the world and supports education, veterans and community causes. Lodges are in Crandon, Eagle River, Rhinelander, Merrill (Virginia Falls), Minocqua (Island City), Phillips in Wisconsin, and Crystal Falls-Iron River and Iron Mountain in Michigan.

Rotary International is traditionally composed of small business owners and community leaders, and supports service, international understanding and community. Clubs are located in Antigo, Eagle River, Merrill, Minocqua and Rhinelander in Wisconsin, plus Ironwood-Hurley and Bessemer-Wakefield in Michigan.

Kiwanis International improves the lives of children in 80 countries. The Wisconsin-Upper Michigan District has clubs in Antigo, Medford, Merrill and Rhinelander in Wisconsin, and Iron Mountain-Kingsford, Iron River (Iron County) and Ironwood in Michigan. A Youth Protection Helpline is available at 866-607-SAFE (7233).

General Federation of Women’s Clubs began in the 1800s, and have been a major force in supporting libraries, community services and cultural activities. There are active chapters in Rhinelander, Minocqua (Lakeland) and Antigo in the Northwoods District and a chapter in Iron Mountain/Kingsford in Michigan.

Optimist International is devoted to civic education and youth services with 95 clubs in Wisconsin, the second most of any state in the country. They meet in Antigo and Merrill.

Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks is a fraternal organization devoted to youth programs, serving veterans and the community. There is a lodge in Antigo.

The Fraternal Order of Eagles are “People Helping People” with a large meeting hall in Merrill. They sponsor a free Breaking Bread Meal on the third Thursday of the month.

Salvation Army / United Way / Community Foundations / Keeping It Local / Online Donations / Online Volunteer Matching
Helping People in Need / Food and Essentials Pantries / Shelters / Veterans / Community Service Organizations